Predictors of Female Sexual Aggression Among a U.S. MTurk Sample: The Protective Role of Sexual Assertiveness

Date01 November 2020
Published date01 November 2020
Subject MatterArticles
/tmp/tmp-17A6l9IkS2h6A3/input 936100CCJXXX10.1177/1043986220936100Journal of Contemporary Criminal JusticeStruckman-Johnson et al.
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
2020, Vol. 36(4) 499 –519
Predictors of Female
© The Author(s) 2020
Article reuse guidelines:
Sexual Aggression Among
DOI: 10.1177/1043986220936100
a U.S. MTurk Sample: The
Protective Role of Sexual
Cindy Struckman-Johnson1, Peter B. Anderson2,
and George Smeaton3
We studied predictors of female sexual aggression (FSA) among a U.S. Mechanical
Turk sample (from Amazon’s online crowdsourcing platform) of 634 adult women
(median age = 32). A logistic regression analysis revealed that five measures
contributed significantly to a model predicting past use of a tactic of post-refusal
sexual persistence (PRSP), accounting for 19% of variance. Women’s use of a PRSP
tactic was associated with lower scores on two sexual assertiveness measures (the
ability to refuse sex and the ability to ask questions about a partner’s sexual health
history) and higher scores on measures of acceptance of heterosexual male rape
myths, early courtship rehearsal (number of others called, texted, tweeted, sexted
due to attraction before the age of 18), and sexual sensation seeking. Based on our
results, we suggest that sexual assertiveness training may be a useful addition to
anti-sexual assault programming. For better prediction and potential prevention of
FSA, we recommend continued research on the variables in this study and additional
factors related to maladaptive personality (e.g., psychopathy, narcissism, and antisocial
values) and the use of alcohol and drugs.
Female sexual aggression, sexual assertiveness, post-refusal sexual persistence
1University of South Dakota, Vermillion, SD, USA
2Walden University, Minneapolis, MN, USA
3Keene State College, NH, USA
Corresponding Author:
Cindy Struckman-Johnson, Department of Psychology, University of South Dakota, 414 East Clark St.,
Vermillion, SD 57069, USA.

Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice 36(4)
The topic of female sexual aggression (FSA) is among the most controversial in sexu-
ality research. In this article, we define sexual aggression broadly as the use of tactics
of persistent arousal, emotional coercion, alcohol or drugs, or physical force to obtain
sexual contact with a person against their will (Anderson et al., 2020). For decades,
there has been societal and professional skepticism about claims that a heterosexual
woman would use pressure or force to obtain sexual contact with a male partner
(Anderson & Struckman-Johnson, 1998; Gavin & Porter, 2015). One major concern
has been that research on sexually aggressive women would trivialize or take the focus
away from the seriousness of widespread rape of women in our culture (Muehlenhard,
1998; Stock, 1998). In fact, a co-author of this article was told by colleagues in 1989
that his PhD dissertation on the topic of women’s sexual aggression toward adolescent
and adult males was potentially damaging to the causes of women and would never be
published (Struckman-Johnson & Anderson, 1998, p. 2).
Another obstacle to research on sexually aggressive women was the stereotype that
women are too sexually “uninterested” or passive to pressure or force a man into sex.
This belief underlies the entrenched traditional sexual script (TSS) that prescribes that
women serve as “gatekeepers” to the sexual advances of men (Beres et al., 2019;
Fisher & Pina, 2013; LaPlant et al., 1980; Weare, 2018). Adding to this perception of
women as sexually passive was the stereotype that women are incapable of inflicting
the type of physical force or harm that can take place during a sexual assault
(Struckman-Johnson & Anderson, 1998). According to Gavin and Porter (2015), men
are viewed as capable of physical violence, whereas women are simplistically per-
ceived as only engaging in “passive, submissive, and emotional aggression” (p. 2).
In recent years, these obstacles to research on sexually aggressive women have
greatly diminished. For one, the growing literature on adjudicated female sexual
offenders (e.g., Gannon et al., 2010) demonstrated that a very small but undeniably
real sub-population of women are capable of sexually abusing children and adults. An
accumulation of surveys revealing that measurable percentages of college women
reported perpetrating sexual aggression (see review below) also had an effect, as well
as did surveys of college men who reported being sexually victimized by female per-
petrators (e.g., Struckman-Johnson, 1988; Turchik, 2012). Another factor was the evo-
lution of the women’s movement which emphasized that women are multi-dimensional
beings whose full range of behaviors merit scientific inquiry, including their potential
capacity for sexual aggression. Stemple et al. (2017) proposed that studying FSA is
consistent with feminist approaches that study intersectionality, examine power rela-
tionships, and challenge gender role stereotypes (p. 303). Gavin and Porter (2015)
argued that female aggression is a “fact of life” that deserves to be studied in its own
right and should not necessarily be viewed as a paler version of male aggression (p. 3).
In their opinion, women who behave aggressively are likely to have different motives
and modes of expression than their male counterparts. While Gavin and Porter were
addressing all aggressive behaviors, we believe that their approach should be applied
to the topic of FSA.
Although much progress has been made in the study of female sex offenders (e.g.,
Gannon et al., 2010), the social sciences are only in the early stages of exploring the

Struckman-Johnson et al.
parameters of unreported FSA among mainstream college and community samples
(Bouffard et al., 2016; Krahe et al., 2003; T. D. Russell et al., 2017). We use the term
“unreported” to refer to sexually aggressive behaviors acknowledged in anonymous
surveys which presumably were not reported to the police. In order for society and the
criminal justice system to move toward prevention and treatment of FSA, we need
more information about the characteristics of sexually aggressive women. Thus, the
purpose of this article is to expand our understanding of FSA based upon research
conducted in the social sciences over the past several decades. We begin with a brief
review of the research-based prevalence rates of female perpetration assessed in North
American and international samples of college and community women. We follow
with a review of key variables established by research to be predictive of FSA in these
populations. Finally, we present the methods and results of our study on predictors of
sexual aggression among a U.S. sample of Mechanical Turk (MTurk) female employ-
ees—adult women who independently contracted with a subsidiary of the Amazon
company to take surveys for pay.
Women Reporting Perpetration of Sexual Aggression
U.S. and Canada Studies
We reviewed 20 studies conducted in the United States and Canada between 1980 and
2015 that asked both women and men of dating age—usually college students—to
report perpetration rates (Anderson et al., 2020). Because every study used different
measures and methods, the rates were highly variable. FSA rates ranged from less than
10% in some studies (e.g., Palmer et al., 2010; Struckman-Johnson, 1988) to 20% to
30% (e.g., Buday & Peterson, 2015; Struckman-Johnson et al., 2003) to as high as
50% (Schatzel-Murphy et al., 2009). Averaging over all studies, the FSA rate was
approximately 16%. Most of the sexually aggressive acts reported by women and men
in these studies involved emotional coercion, arousal, or intoxication tactics and not
physical force.
International Studies
In groundbreaking work on international FSA, Krahe et al. (2003) discovered that 9%
of a sample of young German women used aggressive strategies to coerce a man into
sexual activities. FSA rates among young adult women ranged from 2% to 5% in
Belgium, Spain, Cyprus, Portugal, and Slovakia, 6% in the Netherlands and Poland,
and as high as 15% in Greece (Krahe et al., 2015). Related research teams documented
FSA rates of 14% for women in Turkey (Shuster, Krahe, & Toplu-Demirtas, 2016) and
16% for women in Chile (Shuster, Krahe, Baeze, & Munoz-Reyes, 2016). Gamez-
Guadix et al. (2011), surveying dating violence among 20,000 college students in
Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin American, the Middle East, and North America, estab-
lished that FSA rates of 20% for verbal coercion and 2% for the use of physical force.

Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice 36(4)
Predictors of FSA
The studies discussed above are important because they signaled to society that some
women around the globe, by their own self reports, were engaging in sexual aggres-
sion. The next research advance on this topic was the identification of variables that
contributed to women’s sexual aggression in mainstream populations. What follows is
a review of key predictors of FSA discovered in anonymous surveys of female college
students and community members residing in the United States, Canada, and other
countries. In these studies, female participants, who were almost exclusively hetero-
sexual, were defined as “sexually aggressive” if they reported ever engaging in at least
one act of sexual...

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